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Green Getaways in Illinois

Apr 22, 2021 Regional Getaways

a house with chairs and fire-pit outside

Iillinois' state parks and spots of natural beauty make for a great way to travel eco-friendly and unwind in a simpler, sustainable setting.

Horse riding down a trail

Shawnee National Forest & Makanda

Nestled between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in southern Illinois, Shawnee National Forest is ideal for all types of outdoor recreation and relaxation. The crown jewel of the landscape is the splendid Garden of the Gods, which looks over the rolling hills, canopies, open lands, lakes, creeks and rugged bluffs that define the forest.

Shawnee is also home to the Rim Rock Recreational Trail, where hikers pass jutting walls of rock covered with emerald-green moss as they meander through canyons under the forest canopy. In addition to the variety of trails, springs and historic sites, if you’re looking for true solitude, the forest offers designated ‘Wilderness’ areas, protected by the Illinois Wilderness Act of 1990.

Where to Stay

Makanda Inn & Cottages: Once you’ve explored Shawnee National Forest, spend a night at the Makanda Inn & Cottages. Utilizing natural building materials such as straw bales, recycled plastic roofing and reclaimed wood, the inn has a focus on energy conservation. These materials give the buildings a uniquely organic ambiance, perfect for continuing your escape from the man-made and mass-produced. With affordable rates and a perfect 5.0 rating on TripAdvisor, Makanda Inn is one of the most popular eco-friendly hotels in the region.

What to Do

Rolling Oak Alpaca Ranch: Feel the fleece up close at this family-owned alpaca ranch, where visitors can meet the exotic residents, learn about alpaca farming and shop a farm store filled with fluffy goods. The local, handmade products include yarn, felted goat milk soaps, dryer balls, shawls, socks and toys — much of it made by hand right here at Rolling Oak.

Giant City Stables: While in Makanda, take a horseback ride guided by experienced wranglers. For younger horse lovers, pony rides ease them into the experience, while teens and adults can take riding lessons for groups and individuals.

Cruise boat on the river

River Cruises in the Quad Cities

The mighty Mississippi River is a symbol of America's natural beauty, so what better way to take an environmentally friendly getaway than boarding a cruise on the Mighty Mississipi? Venture northwest to Moline and set sail on a Celebration River Cruise, the perfect way to enjoy one of America’s most iconic waterways. There’s no shortage of themes to keep cruises interesting, with options ranging from a Dinner and Dance to Fireworks cruises.

If you're interested in local history, learn more about the Quad Cities area by booking a narrated excursion. Sit back and relax as the Captain points out and explains the rich story of the area. Take in the scenery, enjoy a cool beverage, and unwind while you cruise the Mississippi.

Where to Stay

Element Moline: After a day on the water, return to a wellness-focused rest at the Element in Moline. A century-old warehouse turned eco-friendly hotel, Element Moline features artwork and decor made from recycled and repurposed materials, LED lighting, filtered water systems and environmentally-conscious bath products containing organic ingredients. To truly rejuvenate and replenish, guests can enjoy an indoor saline lap pool and relax with a complimentary organic beer or wine during the signature reception hour.

What to Do

Navarro Canoe Co.: Keep the trip river-themed by marveling at the craftmanship on display at this unique shop in Rock Island. Just a short drive (or a substantial stroll) from your accommodation, Navarro Canoe Co. is home to beautiful, handcrafted canoes and genuine Illinois hospitality. Visitors can also see the artisans in action painstakingly crafting canoes of the finest beauty and performance. Careful though, witnessing these functional works of art in the flesh might make your trip a little more expensive than intended

River walk


The city of Chicago’s motto — found on the bottom of its shield — is Urbs in Horto, which is Latin for "City in a Garden." Built on the shore of sparkling Lake Michigan, Chicago has always treasured public space as much as urban growth. That makes it a great destination for an eco-friendly getaway.

For those new to the city, some of the more well-known spots might satisfy your need for green. Lincoln Park features a free zoo and conservatory making it a great destination for a more relaxing day. Downtown, Millennium Park is home to the iconic Cloud Gate as well as gardens and plenty of open grass. The exhibits at the city's natural history museum, known as the Field Museum, are one of the best reminders of the importance of nature in our lives.

Outside the urban jungle, there's still plenty of fauna elsewhere in the city. For a secluded oasis on the north side, head to the North Park Village Nature Center. The 46-acre nature preserve has hiking trails, a birding area & a center with educational programs.

And stretching from downtown Chicago all the way to Indiana, the Calumet region highlights spectacular nature areas that have reclaimed the post-industrial landscape.

Where to Stay

The eco-friendly Hotel Felix is Chicago’s first Silver LEED (Leadership in Energy and Design) certified hotel. Hotel Felix is constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce its carbon footprint, utilizing low energy-use lighting, motion sensor heating, ventilation and air conditioning in all guest rooms. All of this ensures you can sleep easy knowing you’re supporting the effort to strive for a sustainable future.

What to Do

Forbidden Root: Chicago’s first botanic brewery, Forbidden Root serves beers inspired by nature and complemented by seasonal dishes for each crafted brew. Malt and a pinch of hops are topped by a generous dollop of natural botanic ingredients — such as wintergreen and cassia cinnamon — then aged with oak to round off the flavor. Every smooth finish pairs with original plates, including the Forbidden Root Burger.

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